The moniker “Pop-up Print Shop” has all the feisty convivial energy of the art it encompasses. Like the short and sharp syllables of the Old Fire Station’s latest exhibition title, the first whisk around the offerings of today’s up and coming print-medium artists gives the impression of a shared bright and jovial wit. On closer inspection however, the spectrum of spaces and bodies that these artists present to us also probes engaging and visceral depths.
The exhibition claims that there are prints to suit every preference and that was definitely the case: for the naturalist, Peta Lloyd offers monochrome photorealism based on solid structure and compositional competence; for the Pop Art fan, Olivia-Jane Ramsley brings pleasing and witty appraisals of domestic consumerism; and for the cubist, Louise Smurthwaite employs a decorative disfiguration in urban scenes. These constitute the most relaxed and decorative of the artists on display, along with the more ‘painterly print-makers, Sarah Lacey and Isabel Carmona Andreu.
As the viewer begins to immerse themselves in the exhibition however, other artists reveal strengths emerging from these strategies of visual pleasure. Henman, de la Rosa and Malsen deal with ‘mutation’ and decay through technique; these three are by far the most technically and conceptually accomplished, and provide the perfect coda to an eclectic group of artists which share a focus on medium and landscape. Bethany Claire Hensman presents us with remarkable drypoint engravings, making an unforgiving medium undulate and disperse under her hand into a series of veiled spaces, adopting extreme format and audaciously deep bites in her plates to create suggestive primordial spaces. This notion of flux is also picked up by Cheryl Maslen who offers some of the best work on display, with dazzling scale and breadth of mixed media she offers a surreal and accretive passage of space that hugs the format, inverting itself and threatening chaos in its accretive meshing of body and space. Her use of found textures, frottage, photo-collage/receptive plates is consummate and provocative, and is only equalled in its concern with the body and its irrationality by Veronica Cordova de la Rosa. De la Rosa’s pursuit of the essential aspect of the individual threatens a constant dissolution with eerie layering of techniques focused on depth and mortality, like I Love You’s evocation of an X-ray. Yet, in stripping her sense of self down on paper to the barest of traces she pressures the viewer into a space of eerie melancholy and appreciation of marginal identity in a globalised world. Void acts as a memento mori to the entire exhibition, and through a remarkable use of shallow relief in paper, leaves a corroded skull in the viewer’s eye that questions the ideological aspect of ‘neutral’ spaces. Her white on white extends the skull to the surrounding white wall space presenting a – in a cramped field of vision, body and space merge in an arresting trace on the wall.
Pop-up Print Shop is on at the Old Fire Station, Oxford until the 30th November.